Six Signs Your Adderall Dose Is Too Low

Adderall is a prescription drug used to manage symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It has multiple side effects, and your dose will be gradually increased over time. In this blog, we discuss the scientific evidence of the six symptoms you may experience if your Adderall dose is too low.
Klara Hatinova

Klara Hatinova

Klara is postgraduate researcher in experimental psychology at the
University of Oxford.

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Adderall: Indications and Mechanisms

Adderall is a combination of two stimulants, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It is used to treat ADHD by stimulating the central nervous system and increasing the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, two critical hormones regulating cognitive functions and activity [1].

Dopamine and Addiction

Dopamine is also responsible for developing addictions because it increases wanting for items, making Adderall a tightly controlled prescription drug.

Adderall helps individuals with ADHD improve focus and concentration and manage hyperactivity. It is often prescribed as part of a comprehensive treatment program that may also include psychological or behavioural therapy, for example, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The dose of Adderall is gradually increased over time, so it is important to pay attention to your symptoms and discuss them with your healthcare professional.

In people with narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and falling asleep throughout the day, Adderall helps increase wakefulness and alertness during the day [1, 2]. This is thanks to the effects of Adderall on norepinephrine, which works by increasing excitation in the pre-frontal part of the brain. Increasing excitation in the prefrontal brain increases one’s executive function and control. However, Adderall does not help with learning and is an ineffective study aid.

What Is The Dosage of Adderall?

Adderall is usually taken in the morning, which is the best time of day for improving focus, performance, and cognitive function.

The specific dose of Adderall depends on the formulation you are taking. As a guideline:[3]

  • Adderal XR: Adderall extended-release capsules. For adults, it is recommended to take up to 20mg in the morning, whereas in children, this should not exceed 10mg.
  • Adderall tablets: This immediate-release formula should be taken at only 10mg/day in adults and 5mg daily in children under 12.
  • Adderall tables for narcolepsy: For narcolepsy treatment, adults should take no more than 10mg a day, and children should not exceed 5mg a day.

The precise dose of Adderall you should take must be discussed with your healthcare provider.

Six Signs Your Adderall Dose Is Too Low

Watch out for these signs and bring them up at your next medical appointment to determine if you need a higher dose of Adderall.

1. You struggle to maintain focus

Inability to focus is one of the hallmark symptoms of ADHD that Adderall targets. This is because attention is controlled by the prefrontal cortex, which is disrupted by neurotransmitter and neurobiological changes in ADHD [4, 5].

2. Impulsivity

Impulsive behaviour is another sign of ADHD, which is distinct from compulsive behaviour observed in obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) [6]. Impulses, such as impulsive language or movements, are also regulated by the prefrontal cortex. Hence a dose of Adderall that is too low may not be sufficiently effective to activate the prefrontal cortex for impulse inhibition.

3. Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity arises in ADHD because there is not enough inhibition of inappropriate movement. Adderall restores this movement balance by increasing the amount of dopamine in the movement-inhibiting pathway [7].

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4. Impaired executive function

Executive function is a group of cognitive functions primarily attributed to your prefrontal cortex. These include planning, decision making and organisation. If your Adderall dose is too low, you may not be able to activate your prefrontal cortex sufficiently to carry out these tasks to your satisfaction.

5. Inability to work and impaired learning

Although Adderall has been demonstrated to not improve learning in college students, in individuals with ADHD, Adderall can improve learning through improving focus, attention and executive function. Unsatisfactory performance at school or work is a sign that is easy to notice and may suggest your Adderall dose is too low.

6. Your symptoms increase in the evening

As Adderall is taken in the morning, if you find your symptoms increase towards the end of the day, it may suggest the Adderall dose is too low. These symptoms include symptoms of ADHD, such as hyperactivity, inattention or disrupted executive function, or symptoms of narcolepsy, which are excessive sleepiness. If your symptoms worsen throughout the day, you may consider an additional Adderall dose or switching to the extended-release formula if you are not taking this already.

Summary: Signs Your Adderall Dose Is Too Low

It is important to be aware of the signs that your Adderall dose is too low. This is because the dose of Adderall is started at the minimum and is increased if you have persisting symptoms of ADHD or narcolepsy. It is also important to know the regular doses of Adderall used for each age category and condition.

As always, make sure to consult your healthcare provider if you feel your Adderall dose is too low.

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Klara Hatinova

Klara Hatinova

Klara is a postgraduate researcher in experimental psychology at the University of Oxford. She has worked across a spectrum of hot topics in neuroscience, including her current project measuring reinforcement learning strategies in Parkinson’s disease. Previously, she studied the efficacy of psilocybin as a therapy for critical mental health conditions and examined molecular circadian rhythms of migraine disorders. She completed her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Glasgow and participated in a year abroad at the University of California, where she worked on a clinical trial for spinal cord injury.